Song Eun-bum traded to Kia Tigers
But, when the pitcher realized through news articles that he had been sent to the Kia Tigers as part of a trade between the Wyverns and the Tigers, it was rather a pleasant surprise for him.
“I was not aware of it at all,” Song told Ilgan Sports on Monday. “But, I have no resentment toward SK.”
Earlier that day, the Wyverns and the Tigers announced a big trade, in which the Wyverns acquired outfielder Kim Sang-hyun and left-handed reliever Jin Hae-soo from the Tigers in exchange for Song and right-handed reliever Shin Seung-hyun.
The trade looks to be a win-win strategy for both teams as the Tigers lack a solid bullpen and the Wyverns have a weak lineup. But, many baseball observers say it might work more in favor of the Tigers, thanks to their acquisition of Song.
The Tigers are second in team batting this season at .292, after the Samsung Lions’ .294. The Gwangju-based team is leading the league in runs scored, at 166, and on-base percentage, .394. But the Tigers have a 4.20 ERA, due to their shallow bullpen, which places them in the middle of the table in the nine-team league.
“Song Eun-bum is available as a starter, reliever and closer, and Shin Seung-hyun is a multiuse player as a middle reliever. So, through this trade, the Kia Tigers have acquired more wiggle room in the management of pitchers,” the Tigers said in a statement.
Song, a 29-year-old right-hander, had long been a starter for the Wyverns. His best season was in 2009, when his record was 12-3. But, this year, he was sent to the bullpen and recorded three saves and a loss with a 3.86 ERA. His career record is 63-42, with a 3.86 ERA and 13 saves.
Shin, 29, has a 22-24 record in 160 games with the Wyverns since 2000.
The Wyverns, who are sixth in slugging percentage at .354 and in runs scored with 99, have welcomed Kim’s arrival.
Kim contributed to the Tigers’ last Korean Series title in 2009, hitting .315 with 36 homers and 127 RBI en route to winning the league MVP. But his average has dwindled since then. This year, he’s hitting .222, with 16 hits and two homers in 24 games.
Jin, 26, had played for the Tigers since 2006, with a career 6.91 ERA in 118 games. This season, he was a reliever in 13 games, in which he allowed 15 hits over eight and one-third innings. This season, he has an 11.88 ERA.
For Song, his loyalty has quickly shifted toward the Tigers, who have a good chance of giving him another Korean Series title this year. His SNS profile Monday morning was “Song Eun-bum of the Kia Tigers.”
The Tigers returned to the top of the standings after winning two of three games against the former leader, the Nexen Heroes, through Sunday. The Tigers, with a 17-8 record, have a whopping .680 winning percentage.
This season, the Korea Baseball Organization’s top four teams have had at least a three and one-half game lead over the rest of the league. The sixth-place Wyverns, together with the fifth-place LG Twins, are five games behind the Tigers.
“I am just thankful to Kia for choosing me,” Song said. “Watching Kia this season so far, they struck me as a really strong team. I am happy that I have become able not to face off against the strong batting of Kia,” he said.
“Kia’s goal this year is winning it all and I will pitch for Kia,” he said.
He said that he is looking forward to learning from Tigers manager Sun Dong-yul as he learnt a great deal from Kim Sung-keun, who managed the Wyverns to the Korean Series five times during his five-year stint with the team through 2011. The Wyverns won three Korean Series titles since their establishment in 2000, all with Kim, in 2007, 2008 and 2010.
“I think I have taken around 80 percent of know-how of the baseball from the manager [Kim],” he said. “Manager Sun was a national treasure-level pitcher and is now an amazing pitching trainer. I have never seen him in person, but I am not afraid of working with him. I want to get close to him and learn a lot from him.”
By Ha Nam-jik, Moon Gwang-lip